Alabama head coach Nick Saban is going through it right now. Following his comments where he namedropped Texas A&M, Jackson State, and Miami as programs he believes are taking advantage of NIL, he's receiving the ire of multiple figures around the country. Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher fired back in an epic press conference on Thursday where he referred to Saban as a "narcissist" and accused him of dirty tactics of his own.
In the case of Jackson State, Saban stated that the program paid a player $1 million to come to their school. While he didn't name the player directly, it's obvious that he is referring to the No. 1 prospect in the 2022 class, Travis Hunter. After being committed to Florida State for over a year, Hunter flipped to the Tigers on Early Signing Day.
“We have a rule right now that said you cannot use name, image and likeness to entice a player to come to your school. Hell, read about it in the paper!” Saban said. “I mean, Jackson State paid a guy a million dollars last year that was a really good Division I player to come to school. It was in the paper and they bragged about it. Nobody did anything about it.”
Shortly after Hunter signed with Jackson State, rumors surfaced that he had accepted a massive deal with Penn Gaming. The former five-star prospect, along with head coach Deion Sanders, has denied those reports over the last few months.
Sanders seemed to take offense to Saban's comments during his initial response on Wednesday evening. While speaking to Andscape.com, he was much more calculated as he detailed the situation and provided his thoughts.
“I haven’t talked to Coach Saban. I’m sure he’s tried to call. We need to talk publicly, not privately," Sanders said according to Andscape.com. "What you [Saban] said was public. That doesn’t require a conversation. Let’s talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation."
“You can’t do that publicly and call privately. No, no, no. I still love him. I admire him. I respect him. He’s the magna cum laude of college football and that’s what it’s going to be because he’s earned that," Sanders continued. "But he took a left when he should’ve stayed right. I’m sure he’ll get back on course. I ain’t tripping.”
Similar to what he's done since Hunter signed with Jackson State, Sanders continued to deny that he was paid to play for the program. In fact, he even posted on social media that he doesn't even make $1 million to coach. Sanders signed a four-year/$1.2 million contract in 2020 (300K per year).
He asserted that the top prospect is not chasing money, he's chasing greatness. Hunter idolized Sanders growing up and now has the opportunity to learn under his tutelage.
“I don’t make a million. Travis ain’t built like that. Travis ain’t chasing a dollar. Travis is chasing greatness. Travis and his family don’t get down like that,” Sanders said. “They never came to us in search of the bag. They’re not built like that. This kid wants to be great.
“He wants my hands on him," Sanders continued. "He wants me to mold him. He wants me to be his navigational system through life. He wants to be that dude.”
Fisher flipped the script on Saban by pushing back and claiming that if you dug into the legendary coach's past, you might not like what you find. Sanders issued an interchangeable message as he made it clear he's not the one you want to mess with when it comes to paying players.
“I don’t even wear a watch and I know what time it is. They forget I know who’s been bringing the bag and dropping it off,” Sanders said. “I know this stuff. I’m not the one you want to play with when it comes to all of this stuff.”
Alongside Hunter, Jackson State signed the No. 54 overall prospect, wide receiver Kevin Coleman. They also were able to bring in 13 players from the transfer portal. Regardless, Sanders maintained that the Tigers don't have the resources to compete with the top programs in college football. Despite the lack of those resources, JSU has clearly been able to add talent.
“Once upon a time the bag was just a bag," Sanders said. "Now, there’s equality among the big boys. We don’t have those types of bags. We don’t have the boosters and donors and givers. Leave me out of that mess y’all got going on."
“What about Kevin Coleman? Who’s he? He spoke on [his counterpart’s] behalf because you don’t want that to happen again," Sanders continued. "You don’t want that to happen next year that we get another big-time player or two or three or four. Now, that’s flipping the game. I understand the game. I get it. I’m not mad.”
The Hall of Famer wasn't pleased by Saban's comments but he understands why he said what he did. In Sanders' opinion, it was the consequence of Saban making an appeal to Alabama's boosters.
“Coach Saban wasn’t talking to me. Coach Saban wasn’t talking to Jimbo Fisher. He was talking to his boosters. He was talking to his alumni. He was talking to his givers," Sanders said. "He was trying to get money. That was what he was doing. He was just using us to get to where he was trying to get to.”
This is the summer drama that keeps on giving. While Fisher will get a chance to settle the score on the field this season, Sanders will have to live with taking the high road for now. To this point, there has been no clear proof offered that Hunter was paid to play at Jackson State. Whether that emerges in the future remains to be seen.
Stick with NoleGameday for more coverage of Florida State football throughout the summer.
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